Stand-up comedy acts, along with general stuff most people find funny (i.e. people hurting themselves while doing something stupid) elicit laughter. Yet this pretty normal human act is still technically a scientific enigma, writes Jake Rocheleau for NowCultured.com.
It is not known what exactly makes something funny, mainly because there are too many factors that dictate how different people react to different situations. They may look at pictures they deem funny and laugh themselves hoarse, or get especially boisterous when they watch such movies online for free—like Don’t Shoot the Pharmacist or Broke, for instance—at sites like the Viewlorium.
There have been several attempts at explaining laughter, though, as well as what makes something funny. Three theories hold the most clout at present: the incongruity theory, the superiority theory, and the relief theory. The first one suggests that something is deemed funny when logic and familiarity are replaced by things which normally don’t go together, i.e. a joke is funny when people expect a certain outcome and witness something totally unexpected.
Superiority theory, on the other hand, comes into play when people laugh at jokes that point to a certain party’s mistakes, stupidity, or misfortune. A good example of superiority theory at work is slapstick comedy, where people laugh at comedians who hurt themselves or their peers physically (i.e. smacks on the heads, pokes in the eyes, or falls down from height). Lastly, relief theory points to the idea of ‘comic relief’, which is put in certain points during a movie where tension and emotion have built up.
However, a study from four years ago sought to uncover the real reason why things are deemed to be funny. According to researchers from the University of Colorado, humour stems from a benign violation of the way the world is supposed to be. In other words, something may be found funny if it’s out of the ordinary.
To arrive at this postulate, the researchers asked groups of volunteers to act out certain scenarios. One scenario involved an American sausage manufacturer hiring a Rabbi and a farmer to promote pork products, with the Rabbi as the spokesperson proving to be the funnier choice. The reason? It presented a moral violation, and was seen as out of place.
Still, these theories remain what they are: assumptions with no solid scientific basis as yet. Nobody knows when scientists will be able to pinpoint the true reason why certain free movies for streaming are considered funny. However, one thing is for certain: those comedy movies do give people a great time.
(Source: What Makes Something Funny and why do we Laugh? NowCultured.com, September 18, 2013)